If you happen to have been walking on the Cornish coast path in the next few weeks, you might just happen across Wayne Dixon and his dog Koda. Wayne and Koda have been walking around the coast of Britain for two years and this winter has seen them walk around the Cornish coast on their mission to pick up litter and raise awareness about how we can all help to keep our world not just tidier, but healthier and happier.
There is no doubt that Wayne Dixon is a hero, he’s recently been given another national award for his tenacious efforts and incredible journey by Keep Britain Tidy. But alongside Wayne is his best friend Koda, the Northern Inuit, who Wayne admits, is the companion who has kept him going as he walks and camps and journeys onwards.
Having started out in the military stationed in Germany Wayne then went travelling for a few years before getting a job as a Youth Support Worker. His career was interrupted when he broke his neck as the result of a cycling accident as part of his work cycling with the young people he was looking after.
Further trauma followed five years ago Wayne’s dad died of a heart condition, following a period of mental ill health. And it was at this difficult time when Koda, a Northern Inuit came into his life. “About ten days before he died, dad brought Koda home. He was clearly unwell at the time, saying he was a wolf a woman had sold to him. It transpired that a lady had sold Koda on to him but without the permission of the Northern Inuit Society for Dog Rescue who had originally rehomed him. Koda had had four different owners since he was born. The NIS did offer to rehome him, but by the time a new owner was found, we’d bonded.”
Wayne and his sister were left their father’s house and they drew rental income. After a period of staying with his sister, for a time on the Lizard at Henry’s campsite in Cornwall, Wayne realised that it was time for a new start, and that he finally had the freedom to go out and fulfil a long time dream, to walk the coast of Britain, litter picking and raising awareness about pollution and social responsibility as he walked.
“I worked out that using the rental income, I would have a budget of about £50 per week. I could take my tent and Koda and just walk and camp. I decided to use the walk to raise money for MIND given his family history of mental health issues, and also the Northern Inuit Society for Dog Rescue.” Wayne also contacted Keep Britain Tidy who have supported his journey.
Every day Koda and Wayne walk about 6 to 8 miles. “People ask me if his paws are OK, with all the walking, but the truth is Koda and I have done this distance every day since I got him.” says Wayne. “Every day I check him for ticks, fleas and make sure his paws are OK and he’s fit and well. He’s my best friend and such a great source of company and support. I have all kinds of conversations with him when we are out on the coast path.”
Sometimes people give Wayne and Koda a bed for the night, and there is a donation fund he can draw on for the cold nights when they need somewhere warm to stay, but most times they snuggle up in a tent just off the coast path. “Koda usually takes up most of the room!” says Wayne.
WHY THIS JOURNEY?
Wayne says he has always had concerns about social issues, this reflected in his work as a social worker. “I’d come to the realisation that nowadays, we all live in bubbles, our home, our car, our office, never seeing beyond what is right in front of us. On one level, that means we never see the rubbish on the street, but it also means we don’t see the the troubles of others around us. By picking up litter, my hope is that I might spark a sense of community and responsibility. Yes, we should pick up litter that perhaps we didn’t drop ourselves, but we should also take care of each other. I hope that as I journey, my walk might make people think and hopefully reconnect with each other, and nature and the world around them.”
When we met, on an icy, windy day in Coverack, Wayne had slept out in his tent with Koda on the coast path and we huddled in the dog friendly Paris Hotel in Coverack as he dried his damp clothes and tent in front of a lovely warm fire. We later went out on the beach together, with Action Nan, Pat Smith, another fabulous eco-friendly campaigner and we all cleaned several bags of rubbish from the beach.
As we were walking, Wayne took a moment to look at a rainbow that had just appeared on the sea and smiled.
“I’ve got it all worked out,” he says. “I have everything I need on my back, my best friend by my side, the world outside is my TV and I meet so many interesting people on my way. For all the negative side of the litter that is everywhere on our beaches, roadsides and so often ignored by passers by, the flipside is the incredible kindness and support that I have received on my journey. Sometimes people think I’m doing community service, but when I tell them, no, I’m just picking up everyone else’s litter because we should all play a part in that, I hope it makes them think that they should be doing this too.”
You can find out more about Wayne’s journey and donate to his chosen charities on his Facebook page, and contact him with messages of support. If anyone can help Wayne on his travels, he is happy to take part in beach cleans and talk at schools, and welcomes news of any dog friendly places to stop along the way.